March 16, 2023

Hello Again, Bill

Andy Nash

On February 21, I received an email simply titled “Hello Again” from Bill Johnsson, just three weeks before he died. 

Bill wrote: “Hi Andy, It’s so good to be in contact again. It’s been too long! How are Cindy and your three lovely girls? Did any of them tie the knot? I’m eager to hear.” 

Bill then shared his news—ongoing chemo treatment for lymphoma. “But life is still good,” he wrote. “Our cup is half full, not half empty. . . . At this stage of our lives, friends and family mean more to us than ever.”

The next morning I wrote back. “Dear Bill, It made me so happy to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to write. . . . I think of you often, always grateful for the chance I had to work for you.” My letter ended up at 900 words: the length of the editorials I used to submit to this same man.

William G. Johnsson has been a great treasure to the Adventist world.

Thirty years ago, when I was 21, I heard from Dr. William G. Johnsson for the first time. The phone rang in my dorm room at Southern Adventist University. “Hello, Andy?” said a voice. “This is Bill Johnsson from Adventist Review.”

I was so excited. I had applied to be a summer intern, and Bill was calling to offer me the position. That summer I met a mentor, hero, and lifelong friend. A few years later Bill would invite me to join the staff full-time.

William G. Johnsson has been a great treasure to the Adventist world. A scholar and a gentleman, Bill loved to laugh more than debate. If you ever wondered, as you read his many articles and books, if Elder Johnsson was genuine, I can assure you he was. He’s one of the finest people I’ve ever known. His words ring in my ears: “Take the high road.” “Look for the good.” “Keep the focus on Jesus.” Through the years I’ve often asked myself, “How would Bill handle this situation?”

Even after I left the Review, Bill and I stayed in touch—and in 2015 we led a group through Israel together in the steps of Jesus. 

The same day I emailed Bill, he wrote back again—“Overjoyed to receive your message”—sounding like Paul himself to the Philippians. Bill’s final words to me would be: “May the Lord bless and keep you safe in his love.”

Thanks friend. See you again soon.

Andy Nash ([email protected]) is a pastor, professor, and former Review assistant editor (1996-99) under William G. Johnsson.